It’s Not Personal. No. Really.

I received a Twitter direct message earlier today from someone who is frequently a teacher of mine.  This individual was curious about why my Twitter following/follower ratio was something like four to one.  My answer, which was also a direct message, was:

The short answer is because I don’t find value in following every person that follows me. It’s a bit more complicated than that, though.

There’s an awful lot of baggage tied up in followers and friends and whatnot online, but there doesn’t need to be.  One reason I’ve always liked Twitter is that I find that it’s incredibly open.  Through an @ message, anyone can get the attention of anyone else who uses the service (so long as the person you want to get a hold of  has their @messages settings in Twitter open to anybody.)

But the way I screen Twitter followers and make decisions about who to follow is pretty simple:  If I find the person or the content helpful to me in my work or engaging in some other way (funny, wise, curiosity-inducing, teaching, etc.), I follow.  If I don’t, I don’t.

It’s not personal.  Except when it is.  By that, I mean that there are far more people in the world than I can learn from at any one time.  If I find a stream useful, I keep it around.  If I don’t find it useful, I let it go.  If the person or stream is more distraction than help, I let it/them go, too.  I don’t have a magic number of people or a ratio, but about four to one seems to be consistent – I get the question of “Why are you not following as many people as follow you?” enough that I’ve noticed the trend.

I don’t follow all the folks that follow me for a bunch of reasons.  Some folks aren’t teaching me anything.  Others are sharing resources I’m finding from other sources.  For the most part, I don’t block folks whom I don’t like or find “offensive” that follow me.

I expect no reciprocity in my reading and/or following habits.  I continually think others who expect such are misunderstanding the opportunities herein, or are using social media for drastically different purposes than I, which is fine, except when they expect me to follow their “rules.”  I try to approach most of these spaces as places in which I can be selflessly selfish.

There’s very little new here.  Friendships and other relationships in “real life” are often one-way.  We get a little hinky sometimes when we see these relationships documented, though.  No need.

3 thoughts on “It’s Not Personal. No. Really.

  1. Bud, thanks for a candid and interesting reply to my question (I sent it as a direct msg so as not to embarass you in any way, but am happy to ‘own up’ to it now that you have gone public, as it were)

    I am pretty strict about who I follow and who I don’t, as I set out in
    http://terry-freedman.org.uk/artman/publish/article_1441.php
    However, my view is that as long as someone is tweeting about something that interests me, and is reasonably frequent, I will follow them. My view is that it’s fairly costless, and it’s worth it for the odd gem I pick up from them, even if that’s only once a month! I also think it’s important for established people like us to follow newbies in order to encourage them, which is why I frequently subscribe to new-ish blogs.

  2. Certainly. I think your process linked above is similar to what I go through. I wish I could, but I can’t follow everyone who follows me – I use my feeds for specific purposes, and too much noise, no matter how high quality, interferes with the use that I need to get out of them.
    That said, I do try to mentor people locally (I will follow anyone I can find in the school district where I work, student or staff), and I try to encourage folks however I can.
    I just don’t want to encourage folks falsely, either.

  3. There are only so many tweets I can follow before I get distracted by too much “noise.” I, too, tend to follow those who add to my learning, who make me laugh, who share useful links or blog posts. I do screen those who follow me – occasionally block someone, but more often take a look and move on. I completely agree, it’s “nothing personal.” I just done have the ability to follow more people than I currently do.
    .-= Danja Mahoney´s last blog ..Need to know =-.

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